It’s a topic that has been on the news for quite a while and i’ve had a request (thanks Emily) to try and explain what it’s all about. I do warn you, this is gonna be a long one, so here goes nothing…
How did it all begin? Well it started with Alex Salmond’s white paper (basically a big important document) which outlined his plans for an independent Scotland. What that means is that central government (that’s Westminster) will no longer have control over how Scotland as a country is run, hence why it’s being talked about on a daily basis. If Scotland does become independent, it’ll affect its economy, defence and of course, its politics. Salmond’s white paper has thus become the basis of the referendum debate – it’s particularly important for Salmond to persuade the Scots his programme for an independent Scotland is the best way forward.
So what is Alex Salmond proposing? Well his white paper is 670 pages and answers about 650 questions so i can’t quite cover everything here. I do have a life you know. But i can say that the biggest issue concerning the whole referendum is the economy, especially the currency. Here’s the deal: Salmond wants to stay in the currency union but critics have said this puts him in a very vulnerable position. This is because the Better Together campaign can easily argue that Westminster is under no obligation to allow Scotland to stay. Of course, that would be an extremely unlikely decision by Westminster, but they are using the uncertainty to suggest that voting ‘yes’ is a dangerous gamble. Now we can see what all the hoo-haa is about with Salmond and Darling. Talking of which here’s a brief video of their debate – Round One *ding ding*!
With the referendum to be held in the next few weeks, the stakes are pretty high which is why the Scottish parliament is continuously studying the detail of the Scottish government’s proposals for staging and running the referendum. This includes their decision to extend the vote to 16 and 17 year olds for the first time in a major poll in the UK. It is important to note that the Scottish government has previously allowed 16 and 17 year olds to vote in some health board elections and crofting commission elections. Looks like Salmond might just have the vote or at least the support of the young Scots.
Interestingly, Salmond originally wanted to ask the question “Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country”, but this was seen by experts (presuming those helping with the independence campaign) as biased in favour of a yes vote.
Voting has been restricted to Scottish residents (well obviously, it is a vote about SCOTLAND) registered to vote in local council elections as well as the one-off extra list of 16 and 17 year old voters – about 124,000 teenagers in that age group will be eligible to vote in the referendum. It seems like Salmond might have their vote, considering the UK government only allow over 18s to vote even though there has been the ‘Vote 16’ which has lobbied governments for many years to decrease the voting age.
Why does this concern the rest of Britain? It could mean the end of the United Kingdom as we know it, the union jack included. We England and Scotland have been a union since 1603 when King James VI of Scotland became King of England – that’s quite a long history, making the result of the referendum vital for the future of both nations. Now might be a good time to look at round two of the debate *ding ding*
Now let’s break the key arguments down…
A ‘No’ vote would mean the UK government would remain sovereign (in charge) of most of Scotland’s taxation, welfare and economy. The benefits of a status quo vote would mean the kingdom as a whole would be a successful economic and political union. It’ll also mean we can maintain our shared values and security and shared risk – economically speaking such as the current deficit. However, ‘Yes’ voters could argue Scotland’s needs would be ignored by central government and that their unique culture and traditions makes them secondary to England.
Depending how the vote goes, if it’s a close call, but still with an overall ‘No’ vote, Scotland could ask for more devolution powers. This means Scotland would have more control over their economy such as raising taxes, whilst Westminster takes care of defence, foreign affairs and pensions. More devolution could mean Scotland take more responsibility for the taxes it spends, and ensure their policies match their targets. A downfall of this is that giving Scotland more control of their taxation could undermine the unity. Why? With change comes reform, thus possibly affecting the structure of the UK parliament. But of course that would be the same with a ‘Yes’ vote. In fact even more so…
If Scotland votes ‘Yes’ on the 18th of September, they’ll be given total control over their taxes, laws and the North Sea oil (that’s how they’ll make most of their money to keep their economy moving). The only thing from the union they’ll keep is the good ol’ Queen ma’am. Wouldn’t this be good for the Scots? It could be yes, i mean if they vote independence, there shouldn’t be a reason why they couldn’t manage their own country. It’s not like England would say ‘Traitors! We don’t talk to people who decide to break a good long 700 year long friendship!’ I’d like to think we’re not bitter. I’m not anyway. But it is important to note that Scotland wouldn’t be granted independence straight away. It takes a lot of work behind the scenes. There’s also a chance that Scotland would face greater financial vulnerability, you know, losing the security of the UK. Let’s not forget the whole currency debate – they’ll need a foreign bank, possibly a new currency and that’ll mean England would be in competition with the Scots. Oh dear…
Whatever happens, the next two weeks will no doubt be leaving people on their tenterhooks – journalists, Scots and the English alike. I do know though that whatever the outcome, it’ll change the running and relationship between England and Scotland, hopefully for the better.
Here’s some useful links which are quite well detailed:
The Guardian – Scottish Independence: The Essential Guide
Politics UK – Everything you need to know about the Scottish Independence white paper in five minutes